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23.7.17

The search for happy

I am part of a book club that I've never read any books for or been to any meetings about. I was eager at first, but I didn't enjoy or finish the first book chosen, a book of short stories by famed actor BJ Novak, I found his tone condescending. There was a snowstorm the day of the meeting so I didn't go to it in the end and I ate all the cupcakes I'd prepared for it, myself.

The latest book chosen is one about a "Search for happiness". That's not the exact title, but something along those lines. I put it on hold from the library, and 3 weeks later was told to pick it up. I just got it, and I guess I already missed the meeting for this one, and there's a new book on the go. I guess I'm too disorganized for a book club, or it wasn't meant to be.

Either way, I decided to start reading this book anyway.
But I take issue with books with these titles, and I can't explain why.
So I went into it thinking I wouldn't like it, and so I don't like it. I find it annoying.

Today, I may have figured out why.
I clicked on a CBC article about a UN camp of refugees that are being slaughtered house by house.

A pursuit of happiness, spending time reading a book about finding happiness, while living in an advantaged world feels ridiculous.

Perhaps I have a unique perspective, because I once lost the person I loved more than anything. And so I know there will be more to come, a lifetime of loss of loved ones, that's how this place works.

But not everyone my age has yet felt the pain of losing a loved one, suffered through an illness, gone through a divorce, had a miscarriage. So the search for meaning in this life is still in vain, the search for more than just day-to-day mediocrity. So a book on happiness is nothing more than an attempt to gain some spiritual ground. And that's okay.

But I learned very quickly after losing my love, that my pain is not unique, only a part of being alive. It's shared with every other living animal on the planet, making pain inevitable - and perhaps something that should be embraced. Pain gives you perspective, so you can practice appreciation.

24.4.17

The South Country Fair

It was one stupid weekend.

He wouldn’t talk to me on the morning I left, because he suddenly wanted to go, but now it was too late. Bye! I yelled to his torso through the open car window.

I wandered through the hippies, reacquainting myself with this alternate reality. Barefooted, bare-bodied youth.

The first night was uneventful, so we drank and smoked and put up a tarp, ruining my car in the process. It was no Frog Fest but it was fun and it was dry. Our more prepared neighbor kept asking if we wanted more rope, which we didn’t.
The following morning we wandered through Fort Mcleod, and returned to the festival to discover Nanton friends drinking Pilsners and having songs dedicated to them. They had artist bracelets on because they were Lance’s woofers. We watched Tin & The Toad.

DN played after them. I swooned at his way with words. I’d never seen anything like him, except for that one time.

I was introduced to Kris, as Georgia was handing him beers from our cooler. “The artists’ catering doesn’t open till 4 and he’s on at 3:45.” He later guilted the co-ordinator into bringing him beer on stage at 4 in a box. How many do you need, 5? 10. They were a circus band.
I lost Georgia that night, but made friends with the rope-offering neighbours and drank wine. Georgia was sleeping in a hammock under the stage the whole time. 5 people slept in our tiny tent that night. I think the tentless ones had plans of parties and falling in love, but it didn’t happen, so 5 loveless adults slept together.  

We went to Fort McLeod and had an awesome breakfast. My gravy was on a pineapple ring and our waitress was only 15.

People started leaving the afternoon of the 2nd day. We weren’t ready and we’d been drinking pilsners since breakfast so I threatened to get a motel room. We packed up, laid around the motel, and showered our dirty little bodies.  

As it turns out, the artist party was that night, and some of us had artist bracelets. I was on the lookout for DN but he was being hogged by all the boys. How adored he must be. A sad looking guy drove by me in a van and asked sort of defeatedly if I wanted a hamburger. On his passenger seat was a dozen A&W hamburgers. It was the best hamburger I’d ever had.

I guess I spotted DN in the corner of the artist tent and offered him a bite of my hamburger. I barely remember this but he later told me this was when he became intrigued. 


Georgia showed up a few hours later with a wicked sunburn wearing a white motel towel as a coat, and called it her festival outfit. She brought Palm Bays and everyone danced and danced.

We left the next day. It was one stupid weekend.

23.2.17

Avoiding Pregnancy as a Modern Female Mammal


As a Canadian, I am grateful for our health care system but also concerned about what's happening in America. What sticks with me the most are the comments on these articles by well-meaning men, who want to chime in but have no leg to stand on.

You know the ones. They don't speak to the availability and affordability of birth control, they speak to the hot issue. The abortion issue. They are pro-choice usually, they want to be open-minded, allowing a woman to choose, but they do not want a woman to "use it as birth control". They have a limit of how many a woman should or shouldn't have had before they cross this man's imaginary line of right or wrong.

This is absurd. A woman does not simply look at her options for birth control and make a conscious decision that an incredibly painful and invasive procedure is what will work best for her life. This is a complicated issue with many other factors at play, namely, accessibility and affordability of birth control.

Today I will attempt to share my personal experience with birth control by disclosing some personal information, without disclosing too much personal information. My audience? Those well-meaning men that want to discuss the issue. Possibly the same ones that at 17 years old would run into my college clinic with their friends, grab a handful of condoms and run out laughing their asses off - while me and the other girls sat waiting to see the doctor to have our prescription filled.

I'll start at the beginning. What did they call it in high school gym class? Being sexually active?
I was late to the game. 19 years old, so 14 years ago.

14 years of sexual activity. Always the serial monogamist, I have had a steady partner for 13 of those 14 years. In trying to pinpoint how many times the deed has been done, I have to go with assumptions. 52 weeks in a year, 728 if we say once a week. 1456 times if twice a week, during the good years. Let's say the number is somewhere in there. 1100 seems realistic.

14 years.
1100 times
1098 times I didn't get pregnant
728 months
5110 days of taking a pill.
5110 days with synthetic hormones in my system.

The last number isn't right, because I went off the pill 3 times. Each time because it was affecting my psychological well-being. The first time I went off the pill was the worst. It was when I was 20 and in college, and I had a complete mental breakdown. Crying all the time, racing thoughts, an inability to concentrate on anything, very dark thoughts. The school nurse watched me for 3 months, and said it's a side effect that will likely go away in time but I couldn't handle it and went off it. When I went back to it, they put me on a different kind, saying it may help with the side effects.
I went off again at the age of 28 and then again at 32, again for personal reasons related to my psychological well-being. I started the pill in 2003, and in 2016 the first major study linking the pill to depression in women was released. You can read about it here: Birth Control Study

The pill is not available on pharmacy shelves. Why? I'll never understand. A pill you need to take everyday requires a prescription. My experience has been that a doctor will only give you a prescription for a maximum of 6 months of refills. When your 6 months is up you have to schedule another appointment to go in, get a physical and/or a pap, then get another prescription. By keeping you on this short leash, they know you'll need another prescription within the year, this ensures you are coming in and getting pap tests annually.

(Pap test - The Papanicolaou test is a method of cervical screening used to detect potentially pre-cancerous and cancerous processes in the cervix (opening of the uterus or womb).

14 years
28-40 doctor visits (sometimes I could only snag a 3 month prescription with walk-in doctors so more like 40 doctor visits)
28-40 prescription refills
728 months of refills
8-12 pap tests

I only got a family doctor a couple years ago, before that I visited my college clinic, my childhood doctor, walk-in clinics, hospital sexual health centres, anywhere that I could score those little pills. The sexual health centre would give you samples for free if you were lucky and struggling for cash. Thankfully doctor visits in Canada are covered by universal health care. How can American women possibly afford this? Ah, yes, Planned Parenthood. The branches that are still open, anyway.

Health care is free here in Canada, but the pill itself costs anywhere from $15 to $30/month. In college I paid a subsidy of $15. The brand name version is $30, but since then I have always gotten the 'no-name' version for $20.

$20/month
728 months
$14,560 the cost of the pill in 14 years.
4 - years I've had work coverage to pay for it.
$10,400 the amount I paid for it before I had coverage
0 - times a partner has offered to help with the cost.

I've always worked hard, kept a good job, but sometimes there was no money. Some months you're in between jobs, moving cities, just trying to get by. Some months, I risked it more than I should have, tried to remember to use backup protection instead. I have friends that sometimes can't afford to put minutes on their phone, so I often wonder if they're going without.

Now I'm 33 years old, with another 15 years to go before my body starts considering retiring my baby-making factory. Another 15 years of this shit.

So there's my experience; one white woman in a first world country with universal health care.

This issue is far more complicated than what I've written about today and far more complicated than simply uttering the words choice or life. Remember to ask the right questions. Is there access to birth control everywhere? In the rural communities, as well as the cities? Is it affordable? When the answer is no, we are not supporting women. Ask the women in your life what their experience has been, learn what it means to live with your choices, your decisions, from your teenage years up to your adult years. Be less political, and more human.